Wildlife experts are unable to analyse whether the number of animals in the hill state is increasing or declining as the forest department did not conduct a comprehensive census since 2008.
Lack of authentic figure is also giving experts a tough time to know if poaching, disease or any other reason trouble wild animals.
The department conducted its first census in 2003, three years after the state was formed. Another census was done in 2005 and the latest one in 2008.
“We really don’t know whether the population of carnivores is increasing or the population of herbivores is declining or vice a versa. To understand the actual reasons, we should have figures in hand,” said Belinda Wright, the executive director of Wildlife Protection Society of India.
“It’s critically important to monitor wildlife species especially in a state like Uttarakhand which is rich in its fauna. Regular monitoring will at least show ups and downs in wild population. If you don’t monitor wild species, then we would never know whether poaching or disease or any other reason is troubling the wild.”
Digvijay Singh Khati, the chief wildlife warden, told HT: “It’s difficult to conduct comprehensive scientific census of many species in one go. So, we are gradually taking step by step to calculate their population taking one specie at a time.”
He, however, said past censuses, which listed population of 23 animal species, were not scientific.
Some of the key species that hold prominence in food chain - deer, barking deer, Goral, Bharal, blue bull and others - were not estimated since then. As a result, the actual reason behind high man-animal conflict is unknown, experts said.
The forest department is clueless about leopard population in the state. But census of tiger is done in every four years as per National Tiger Conservation Authority protocol. According to the 2014 census, the state reported 340 tigers.
Notably, Uttarakhand leads in reporting highest leopard mortality incidents (35-40% annually) and also registering highest conflict incidents (50 cases on an average a year).
The government started the first phase of leopard estimation in 2015 and it is supposed to conduct two more rounds. But, the estimation of first round is yet to be completed.
Presence of high altitude species like snow leopard, Himalayan marmot, musk deer, tahr, blue sheep, red fox and Tibetan wooly were reported in the state. But there was no record of their actual population.